Executives at Tokyu Hotels are looking to the future while conscious of new rules of engagement motivated by the pandemic.
TOKYO—As one of the largest hotel chains in Japan, Tokyu Hotels Group has always stepped up to take the initiative in an emergency, its executives said, and that has been the case in the current COVID-19 crisis.
The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games has been another blow.
The Tokyo-based hotel firm formed in 2001, although its parent company opened its first hotel in Tokyo all the way back in 1960. It now has three brands—Tokyu Hotel, Excel Hotel Tokyu and Tokyu REI Hotel—and 47 properties with 12,000 rooms and 3,400 employees.
All but five of its hotels are in Japan. In June, Tokyu opened the 230-room Yokohama Tokyu REI, which was delayed from an initial opening in April, and opened the 200-room Fujisan Mishima Tokyu. Its five hotels outside the country are all a part of partnerships, with two hotels in Hawaii and three in Taiwan.
Two hotels in Japan also are joint ventures.
Preferred Hotels & Resorts has been brought in to help with international reach.
Hiroyuki Mizuno, executive officer and SVP of sales and marketing, said COVID-19 has stalled his expansion plans but has not stopped them.
“Since the Olympics was supposed to be held in Tokyo in 2020, we have planned and opened two new hotels around the Tokyo area for the occasion …. (and) we also refurbished the guestrooms and the club lounges in the five hotels in our 5-star (Tokyu) hotel brand, including our flagship hotels, Capitol Hotel Tokyu and Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel,” Mizuno said, who added work was completed days before the government proclaimed COVID-19 warranted a state of emergency.
The slump in rooms demand due to COVID-19 is the immediate worry at hand, though. Mizuno said the hotel firm immediately set up the safety and hygiene standards mandated by government.
“Due to the state of emergency by the Japanese government, some of our hotels had to close temporarily from the middle of April to the end of May,” he said.
He added Tokyu’s standing in Japan meant it had to take the lead in best practices that contributed and supported the communities in which its hotels operate, including housing those who required self-isolation, but also being aware of those guests’ anxiety.
Staff were furloughed for a time, but now they have returned, he said.
“We understand deeply that general values and thoughts about work and life changed dramatically in society on this occasion, which made us be painfully aware that we cannot take the same strategy and measures anymore to acquire revenue we have taken before COVID-19. It’s time to change our outlook,” Mizuno said.
“We understand that a new business style adapting (to) this new era is necessary and essential. For instance, first of all, the reconsideration of target audience is required since we'd focused on the group leisure travelers before but the demands of accommodation for the (financially independent travel), including family travelers, will expand now,” he said.
Tokyu has already worked to improve the Wi-Fi speed and reliability in its rural hotels, so that they now perform as well as urban properties and to better accommodate guests who are working while also taking the opportunity to staycation.
Mizuno said he wanted all Tokyu assets to be “easier places for visitors and guests who stay in the hotels because of increasing opportunities of remote working and online meetings after COVID-19.”
Mizuno said next up for the group is a new-build in Shinjuku, a suburb of Tokyo, which will open in 2022. The company is also holding out hope for a boost from international travelers, as the Tokyo Olympic Games are now scheduled for 2021 and there has been increasing interest in Japan and its culture from international guests.
Currently, its Tokyu flag has 13 hotels and 3,759 rooms, its Excel flag has nine hotels with 2,627 rooms, its REI flag has 20 hotels and 5,036 rooms and its seven partnership hotels have a collective 2,905 rooms.
Domestic travel is key right now, though, as it is in most global markets.
“Our primary business focus is on the domestic leisure business,” Mizuno said. “With the (new) angle of the hotel business, we have created several collaborations with other brands and the (parent) Tokyu Group, including train-travel packages with Japan Railways Group to promote (our) Shimoda Tokyu and Imaihama Izu Tokyu hotels together.”
Tokyu also is promoting rural breaks and special tours for associates of those the company and its parent group partner with.